In this issue, Caldene sponsored rider and Horsemart columnist Ellen Whitaker gives advice on fitness training for your horse ready for the show jumping arena. So, in order to find out just how to improve your horse’s fitness and strength to make it perfect for show jumping, read our guide below...
Fitness training should always be planned for each individual horse and not just for your chosen discipline. With this in mind it is important to think about any previous problems your horse may have encountered whilst training in the past so you can plan accordingly. For example a horse may have a weakness physically meaning certain phases of the training need to be extended before progressing onto more demanding work, or for horses that are very strong more time may need to be allocated to schooling on the flat.
For show jump training it is important to bear in mind your objectives (e.g. increasing speed, stamina, co-ordination, muscular strength and delaying the onset of fatigue). Steps must always be taken to reduce the risk of a breakdown (injury) and to maintain the horse’s willingness to work. For this reason I like to give my horses plenty of time to achieve the necessary levels of fitness and always keep their training varied.
Due to the nature of show jumping anaerobic energy pathways play a big part, whereas aerobic energy pathways are less significant due to the short period of a show jumping round (approximately one minute). The powerful muscular contractions involved with each jumping effort rely totally on anaerobic energy pathways.
Therefore show jump training in the later stages is based around working at high intensity for short periods of time to simulate actual competition demands. Intensity, duration and frequency are important factors in order to reach peak performance. My main focus is always gymnastic ability and power, although not forgetting speed which is just as important in some classes.
Following your horses winter break it would be a good idea to build on the work he has been doing over winter. Whilst hacking out do plenty of trot work to improve overall fitness and also to build up muscular strength. It is important to ride in a correct outline even when out hacking so that the right muscles are worked. If you have access to any hills then hill work is great for building the hind quarters.
Once your horse reaches a reasonable level of fitness, after three to four weeks of regular hacking out and basic work in the school, providing there have been no setbacks then you should start to increase the workload focusing on high intensity exercise for short durations carried out frequently to increase the efficiency of the anaerobic energy pathways.I find gymnastic jumping (a series of jumps and ground poles) is an excellent way of improving fitness, rhythm and co-ordination. If your horse is a little rusty after a break from jumping over the winter this could be a good place to start as it will also help to build his confidence. If you are unsure of correct distances between poles ask a qualified instructor to help you.
As part of my horses’ fitness programmes I am lucky enough to have access to a treadmill, hydrotherapy spa and massage system. These all help to support horses during fitness training and competitions, thus reducing the risk of injury and maintaining a competitive edge.Be careful not to over jump your horse as you need to keep him fresh for competitions.
Once competing begins for my horses I don’t often jump them between competitions as it is important to give the muscles etc time to recover after strenuous work.Jumping sessions twice a week for short periods (around 20 minutes) should give you enough time to develop your jumping to the required standard and then practice riding a course of jumps. However this all depends on your individual horse and how quickly he reaches the training objectives. Always allow extra time for setbacks and consider a later date for your first competition if your horse is not ready, after all it is supposed to be fun and putting yourself under too much pressure when your horse is still fairly young might spoil things.
Ellen’s gear guide
Ellen loves wearing the Caldene collection and is particularly fond of her Exmoor Show Jacket.
The Exmoor is a fitted, elegant smart and professional looking ladies show jacket that will definitely make you stand out from the crowd at those special occasions.
It is available in colours Cherry Red and Chocolate Brown with a contrasting felt collar and shiny gold buttons.
It also features side vents and flap pockets and is made from 55% polyester / 45% worsted.
Available in sizes 34” to 42”, the Exmoor show jacket retails at around £184.50For further information on the Caldene range telephone (01274) 711101 or visit